‘We need to make sure we’re ready to play’: Miami takes Tallahassee for annual rivalry series with Florida State

Sophomore Jacob Burke gets a hit during Miami’s victory over the Bison on Saturday, May 7, 2022 at Mark Light Field. The Hurricane’s have outscored North Dakota State 38-1 in the two games. Photo credit: Josh Halper

No matter where, when and what the national rankings read, a battle with Florida State brings high energy levels to Miami baseball.

That’s why, even after being swept last year, the No. 6 Hurricanes are fired up for a shot at winning their final road series.

“This is a team we’ve played more than any other team in our history,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said. “We need to make sure we’re ready to play. I have a feeling our guys will be very excited and pumped to go up there and play.”

Seventy-five wins for each team over the last 151 meetings has made the rivalry memorable entering Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee on Friday.

Since its latest five-game win streak began, Miami (36-12, 17-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) has scored an average of 14 ½ runs per contest and ranks fifth in the ACC in total runs scored with 392.

Despite a lack of run production, Florida State (30-17, 13-11 ACC) enters the rivalry weekend with momentum, too.

Seminoles outfielders Reese Albert and James Tibbs have led Florida State’s lineup, each providing at least 20 RBI, 12 doubles and 18 walks.

But one other name on Florida State head coach Mike Martin Jr.’s lineup card goes hardly unnoticed.

Alex Toral, a redshirt senior who spent his first four seasons at Miami as its starting first baseman, has remained a power-hitting contributor in the middle of the lineup. The former Archbishop McCarthy graduate led the ACC in home runs in 2019 and ranked third in the country.

If neither the Canes or Noles score many runs in the series opener, however, the anticipated pitcher’s duel will have come to life.

Sophomore left-hander Carson Palmquist, tied for third in the conference with seven wins, owns an ERA of 2.95 for the ACC’s ninth lowest. The Fort Myers, Fla., native will pitch against Florida State redshirt sophomore Parker Messick (6-2), the reigning ACC Freshman and Pitcher of the Year.

Messick allowed two earned runs to Boston College in a walk-off loss in his most recent start and held Louisville to five hits in a 6 2/3-inning shutout in mid-April. The former All-ACC First Team honoree offers a four-pitch collection, including a new-look slider, and has guided the Seminoles towards the second-lowest team ERA in the conference.

Miami was also the sixth-ranked team before Florida State outscored its opponent 34-2 across the weekend at Mark Light Field.

“The only thing that we can control is how we play. We can’t control how the other team does or what that night looks like,” junior catcher Maxwell Romero Jr. said. “All you can control is giving 110% and I think with what we’ve been doing, 110% is all we can ask for and line up pretty well for us.”

With multi-hit outings in three of the last nine games, freshman designated hitter Zach Levenson has provided Miami with a needed spark in the lineup. The freshman holds a slash line of .319/.423/.574 after hitting his sixth home run of the season — a first-inning grand slam — in a high-scoring rematch against Central Florida Tuesday.

Seventy-three runs scored over five games have left a need for Miami’s lineup to score runs versus the Seminoles on the road, where the Hurricanes stand 58-82 all-time.

“It’s a dream come true to play at this university,” Levenson said. “Miami versus Florida State, that’s always a game you want to be in. Nothing more exciting than to do this this weekend.”

Friday and Saturday’s matchups can be viewed on the ACC Network, while Sunday’s game will be aired on ESPN2.

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